How 'BOUT Them...Rangers?!?

Brian HaleContributor IJune 3, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 6:  Pitcher Kevin Millwood #33 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Cleveland Indians during the home opener at Rangers Ballpark April 6, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I know, I know. It's early in the season and all the doubters and pessimists of the baseball world will be the first to refute this entry purely based on the title.

I know the title's popularity gained confidence during America's Team's glory days in '90s and that comparing the Cowboys' legacy to the only team in major league baseball to have never won a postseason playoff series is somewhat ludicrous.

But as someone who has been a fan of the Texas Rangers for over 20 years, can you blame me for being so optimistic and excited?

As of this morning (May 27), the Rangers had the best record in the American League and could be called the second-best team in baseball behind the Los Angeles based, blue and white team whose stadium has its own zip code and (up until the 50-game suspension) had recently been deemed "Mannywood."

The standings don't lie. Sure, I know it's early in the season; the season isn't even one-third complete and October is a long ways off. But if this Arlington, Texas-based team can keep up their momentum, they could be flirting with the 100-wins plateau at the end of the season. Doesn't sound believable, does it?

Everyone knows the Rangers' offense is one of the best in baseball. The elusive question that has been asked since the team arrived in 1972 has always been, "What about the pitching?"

The Rangers finally answered that question last offseason when legendary hurler (and team President) Nolan Ryan vowed to work personally with the pitching staff. The organization also landed pitching coach Mike Maddux from the Brewers to assist.

So far, both moves seem to be paying off for a team who plays in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in all of baseball. The Rangers' pitching staff leads all teams with eight complete games. The five starters are consistently giving six, seven, or eight innings and allowing the bullpen to not become overworked.

The team ERA is below that of the American League average and currently ranks in the middle of the pack in all of baseball. For a team that has consistently been found in the bottom three in terms of team ERA, middle of the pack is a huge jump and confidence boost.

With one of the most powerful offenses in the game, the question now is, will the pitching hold up and continue its current path all season? Or will the pattern of falling off dramatically after the all-star break hold true as many DFW-area fans believe? Don't expect the typical this season. Why? Because of last year.

The Rangers began the month of August on a hot streak and were poised to finish the season above .500 and possibly remain in the wild card race until the end of the season. The injury bug bit the Rangers and they never got the opportunity to prove their case.

This team also has a different swagger and confidence than previous teams. In years past, if a loss ended a four- or five-game win streak, the loss would turn into three or four consecutive losses. Most recently, an 11-1 loss to the hated Yankees ended a three-game win streak for the Rangers.

The response to the lopsided loss was a 7-3 victory over Joba Chamberlain and the Evil Empire who had won 11 of 13 games. Winning the third and final game of the series tonight would only give the Rangers more confidence and push them to 10 games over .500.

It is a long ways until October. If the Rangers can stay healthy and keep the quality starts coming from their pitching staff, it might not be too far-fetched to think this season could be the first time in team history that the Rangers win a playoff series and fans around the Metroplex begin saying, "How 'Bout them Rangers!"